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Let’s not return to business as usual

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

The National Coalition for the Homeless applauds all the communities that are rushing to provide desperately needed housing for people who are unhoused, and especially vulnerable to contracting and succumbing to COVID-19. 

However, we are, quite frankly, disturbed that so many are still relying on congregate settings: big tents and open floor warehousing of people, in what is clearly a dire public health emergency for the entire country. In the hopes of relieving the strain on other overcrowded shelters, the San Diego government decided to open the convention center to the homeless population. They are expecting to house over 1,500 people during this crisis. San Francisco ignored early warnings from advocates and requests to place vulnerable folks in empty hotel rooms, and now residents and staff of shelters are falling ill. This is unacceptable. We are clearly failing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in both sheltered, and unsheltered, populations, and in direct opposition to clear guidelines given by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). 

Researchers who have long studied homelessness have projected that homeless individuals infected by COVID-19 would be twice as likely to be hospitalized, two to four times as likely to require critical care, and two to three times as likely to die than the general population. (Read the full report)

This crisis continues to highlight the structural inequities that have plagued us for decades, causing mass homelessness since the defunding of Federal affordable housing programs starting in the 1970’s. 

We call on Congress to respond swiftly with the following: 

  • 11.5 billion for ESG (15 bil based on this study, minus the $4bil in the CARES Act) 
  • 4 billion for fair elections (based on this information
  • Emergency rental assistance for all tenants, including rural renters
  • Extend moratoria on evictions to all renters, extend sunset date to 3 months after stay-at-home orders are lifted, and do not require all back rent paid when moratorium lifts 
  • Extend health care for uninsured/underinsured 
  • Extend funding for hotel/motel space for people who do not have a permanent home
  • Facilitate transfer of unused/vacant housing to families who are unhoused 
  • Increase food assistance through the SNAP program

Further, we call on HUD either to automatically renew all FY 19 funded COC projects, or greatly simplify the renewal process. Our service providers are using all their capacity to ensure their unhoused community members are safe, we don’t need a lengthy application process during this public health crisis!

But again, let’s be clear, homelessness has been a public health emergency for over 4 decades!!

We stand in solidarity with our neighbors who are calling to #CancelTheRent. They know so well that the over 22 million Americans who have filed for unemployment, plus the up to 140 million Americans who were already on the edge before the coronavirus appeared, are in danger of becoming homeless. 

We stand in solidarity with all those who have been left out of the Federal relief responses thus far, our poorest and most vulnerable neighbors. As Rev. Dr. William Barber puts it, “The virus is teaching us that from now on, living wages, guaranteed health care for all,unemployment and labor rights are not far left issues, but issues of right vs wrong, life vs death.”

We must work to correct the long-standing and systemic causes of housing, income, health and further racial inequities. When the emergency of Coronavirus infection has passed, we do not want to return to normal. We should all hope to see a new normal emerging where we and all of our neighbors have safe, affordable and accessible housing; adequate wages to cover our living expenses, adequate and affordable health care, and where our civil and human rights are equally defended and protected.

CARES Act: What’s in it, and what do we still need?

Written by admin on . Posted in Uncategorized

NCH members sent over 1,600 letters to Congress urging greater relief and stimulus for homeless and at-risk communities. Thanks in part to this action, the Federal government has now enacted the third stimulus package for COVID-19, known as the CARES Act. While this is an important step in providing relief to people who are economically vulnerable, there is still much more needed to keep our communities healthy, housed, and safe. Notably missing were increases in food assistance, adequate health and housing support for Americans losing their jobs, and enough support to house our vulnerable homeless neighbors.

The CARES Act included $4 billion for Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG). This money can be used for shelter for short term and medium term housing assistance such as Rapid Rehousing. Usually with ESG grants there is a state matching component, but this component has been waved for purposes of this emergency funding. Of the total, $2 billion will be released as soon as possible under the pre-existing formula. The last $2 billion will be released based off of community needs, an assessment of which will be forthcoming.

Also included is $5 billion in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). Similar to the ESG funding this money will be distributed in waves. There will be $2 billion released to states and communities based off of the fiscal year 2020 formula. One billion will be released to states and another $2 billion will be released to states and local governments based on risk and housing disruptions.

Further funding:

  • $1.25 Billion in tenant based rental assistance
  • $1 billion for Project Based Rental Assistance (PBRA)
  • $300 million in tribal housing grants
  • $120 million for 202, 811, and HOPWA housing
  • 2.5 million for fair housing
  • $30 billion in Disaster Relief Funds
  • $150 Billion in flexible funds for states and municipalities that can be used for rental assistance and other community development needs
  • $3 billion for rental assistance for Public Housing Authorities.

Also included in this bill is a 120 day moratorium on evictions. However, this moratorium only covers renters living in public housing or project-based rental assistance programs. The majority of renters renting from private landlords would not be covered. The moratorium on evictions only applies to new filings of evictions. This means if you are already scheduled to be evicted this moratorium will not protect you. Also this law only protects people who have not paid rent. All other forms of evictions are not included.

This is a great first step but we need much more to protect our most vulnerable. Here are the policy asks the National Coalition for the Homeless is calling for:

  • Cancel the FY2020 COC NOFA
  • Emergency rental assistance for all tenants
  • Ensure moratoria on evictions do not lead to mass evictions after the emergency has passed
  • Extend health care for uninsured/underinsured
  • Extend funding for hotel/motel space after the emergency passes
  • Facilitate transfer of unused/vacant housing to families who are unhoused
  • Increase food assistance through the SNAP program

YOUR ACTION IS STILL NEEDED!

 Thank you all for your great work during this difficult time. Stay safe.

Related issue areas:
Fixing Unemployment Insurance
Disaster Loans for Small Businesses and Nonprofits

TAKE ACTION to protect unhoused folks during the COVID-19 outbreak

Written by admin on . Posted in Uncategorized

We applaud Congress for passing the Families First CoronaVirus Response Act, which will provide immediate paid sick leave and paid family leave to millions of people, expanded unemployment insurance, vital nutrition aid, more Medicaid funds for states, and free COVID-19 testing.

Image by Western Regional Advocacy Project

Image by Western Regional Advocacy Project

But they left out critical resources for people experiencing homelessness!!

Our unhoused neighbors are more likely to have underlying health conditions, use spaces with congregate settings (public transportation, shelters, soup kitchens), have already diminished life-expectancy, have limited ability to follow public health advice, or suffer from stigma and discrimination in accessing basic services. (Read more in the National Health Care for the Homeless Council‘s issue brief)

It is imperative that services, medical care, resources, and support for people experiencing homelessness is included in any further Federal Coronavirus response. 

We are all in this together – we must act now! 

We are asking for lawmakers to:

  1. Provide $15.5 billion specifically targeted to people who are currently homeless. This should include language that adds “medical respite care” services into allowable/prioritized uses for emergency CoC funding.  

  2. Cancel the 2020 NOFA: Direct HUD to automatically renew Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Funding in 2020 to programs that were recently renewed through the 2019 renewal process, as currently allowed in the HEARTH Act, so long as the Continuum of Care Entity documents that a) there is a continuing demonstrated need for the project and b) that the project continues to comply with CoC program requirements.  Use the 2020 CoC NOFA process to competitively award only additionally appropriated funding for New Projects to meet the needs of those currently on the streets, in shelters, or the newly homeless.

  3. Require HUD to increase flexibility to allow communities to utilize CoC Homeless Assistance Funding to meet local needs and local priorities.

  4. Call for a moratorium on all homeless encampments sweeps during the pandemic. The CDC has released guidelines saying encampments should not be displaced unless housing is available

  5. Provide $50 Billion of new funding for expansion of Low Income Housing Tax Credits targeted to housing for homeless families and individuals, expansion of the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and expansion of Project Based Section 8 funding for permanent supportive housing and housing for families experiencing homelessness.

These demands are absolutely imperative to the safety, wellbeing, and care of people experiencing homelessness, and we cannot wait. Contact your Legislator below!

 

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